Experienced daycare operator Leanne Merja is partnering with Heather Arps Barrett to open “The Daycare,” at 603 Third St. N.E. in Choteau this summer.
The Daycare is a new business but will build upon Merja’s home-based Tenth Avenue Tots which is closing in conjunction with the opening of The Daycare on July 31.
The Daycare — with the motto “childcare for the child you care about” — will provide early childhood education and care for children whose parents are busy. This includes time to play and participate in activities such as gardening, cooking, crafts, music and sign language.
Each day the youngsters say the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag and The Bible. Meals will include a morning snack, lunch and dinner. Families are busy, and Merja and Barrett said they feel they can optimize time together if children have already eaten a nutritious meal before they are picked up from The Daycare.
Another service provided is occasional Saturday care so parents can work, go shopping, hit the slopes, clean out the garage, have a date day, etc. — the opportunities are endless. The Daycare will also provide transportation to and from elementary and preschool in Choteau.
The Daycare will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and select Saturdays. To call for more information on rates or to reserve a spot, contact Barrett at 781-6440 or Merja at 590-1352.
Barrett grew up in Choteau and Fairfield and graduated from Fairfield High School. She has worked as a pharmacy technician and with her father, Lyle Arps, at Big Sky Maintenance.
She and her husband, Tim, moved back to Choteau in 2015 with their three children: Mason, 10, Cyle, 6, and Isabella, 2. She said she is excited to work in the early childhood education field with her kids by her side.
Merja grew up in Billings and Missoula and graduated from Sentinel High School and the University of Montana. She taught math for eight years (with Barrett as one of her students) before opening Tenth Avenue Tots to be at home with her children.
Leanne and her husband, Stewart, moved to Choteau in 2005. They have two children, Arthur, 17, and Zabrielle, 8. She said her whole family is excited to get their house back.
Both women said they wanted to operate The Daycare here because this is their home.
“We live here, attend church here and our kids go to school here,” Barrett said. “We feel there is a need for more quality childcare, as Leanne was continually having to turn families away because Tenth Avenue Tots was full.”
Merja said, “God placed it on our hearts to create the opportunity for more children to be cared for in a loving Christian environment.”
They both said that The Daycare is a Christian organization and they thank Jesus for the opportunity to share His love with the children of Choteau.
Barrett and Merja will be the full-time caregivers at The Daycare. On occasion, they plan to use a substitute provider when one of them needs to be gone, but families can expect the continuity of care that comes from having one owner present at all times.
Their customer base is the “hardworking families of Choteau,” Merja said. Some parents work full-time, some part-time, and others just need a day on occasion to tackle a big project, Barrett added.
The Daycare accepts Best Beginnings scholarships and would be happy to help with the application process.
In the short-term, the partners want to complete the updates to the daycare building, get to know the families of the children they will be caring for and help families to meet their goals by providing quality care for their children.
In the long-term, they want to attain a STAR 3 level in the state’s childcare providers Best Beginnings STARS to Quality program. They also look forward to watching their charges grow up and contribute to the community, knowing that they had a part in shaping who those children are.